An Exit Interview and A Great Idea

Exit interviews are a smart way to end an experience -- professional or academic. They're a chance to get and give valuable insight, and a chance to get closure. I wrote about President Barack Obama's exit interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin -- you should definitely read her Vanity Fair article if you haven't; it's still as powerful and insightful as it was when it was published. 

In the last week, I've met, at least briefly, with all the professors for my fall term classes, something I never did in undergrad. In undergrad, I very rarely went to office hours, and looking back I feel pretty stupid about that. I was at a place surround by brilliant thinkers who write about the things I care about and want to work on, yet I almost never took the opportunity to ask them about it. Usually a trip to office hours was to ask for something -- help, a letter of recommendation, feedback, etc. 

These were missed opportunities -- mistakes that I was committed to not making in graduate school. 

My meetings haven't been traditional exit interviews, though there was some exchanging of feedback. They were mostly just a chance to say thank you and talk about ideas. When you're around brilliant people, you get this sense that if you can just listen to them talk enough, and ask them enough questions, that eventually their genius will rub off on you. My fingers are crossed that it works out like that for me. 

Of all the office hours I've ever been to, the meeting I had this week with Professor Tina Seelig was probably my favorite. Tina is an amazing, accomplished human. She's written 17 books, has a Ph.D in neuroscience from Stanford Medical School, and now is a Professor of Practice in the If you met Tina on the street, you wouldn't know any of that. She is so smart and insightful, but unpretentious. She is a warm and kind person, she always greets you with a smile, she listens intently. Sometimes I feel like I have to perform or impress around professors, not with her though. With Tina, it's just chatting. 

Our last conversation was wide ranging. It started with a question about what to do next. I wanted to know if she had any advice for how to apply the tools I learned in her Creativity and Innovation class to my professional goals and aspirations: improving outcomes in Oregon's education system through policy. Had she heard of any governments using design thinking? Has anyone done this well before?

She had a lot of ideas, recommendations, and insight -- all of which has been scrawled in a tiny notebook I carry around with me for occasions just like my meeting with Tina. She recommended a book, a podcast episode from This American Life, a TED talk, and an example of a small set of actions she took to make a program she runs more equitable and accessible to all students, regardless of background. 

She also gave me a great idea.

That's the subject for another blog post, though.